Wang Shu was walking down the corridor leading to the meeting hall alongside Gustave who's never left his side since the incident, when he saw the high priest rushing from the other side, worry and anger evident on his features. The old man halted at the sight of Oliver up and about, looking as healthy as an ox. It was only yesterday that he left the Ederidge's manor and sent off his apprentice to monitor the kid's condition this very morning. How come he woke up already?
High priest Phlios was pleasantly surprised. Is this why his apprentice sent in an emergency signal? If so, even if it caused him unnecessary worry, it doesn't matter. As long as he played his cards right, he could figure out the kid's secret without drawing too much attention. Yes, Valdis did well to call for him as soon as possible, this matter couldn't be delayed, after all.
Putting on his signature kind and benevolent smile, the old priest regained his holy countenance in a matter of seconds. "Oliver, my child, it's nice to see you awake and well. Are you feeling any discomfort at all?" he inquired concernedly.
Hearing the deliberate caring tone, Wang Shu's skin broke out in goosebumps. 'Old man, your level of pretension must have reached the professional league, right? Or else, where would this kind of shamelessness come from?'
Nevertheless, himself aside, even the previous Oliver wouldn't believe the priest cared this much. Let's not mention the astronomical prices at which his medicine was bought (the transaction benefited the church more than they did Oliver), the man never bothered to speak more than two words to him per visit, how come his concern is this delayed?
Wang Shu hardly contained a disgusted shiver by rubbing his arms in a soothing motion. Gustave snorted looking at the scene making the younger boy glare at him.
"I'm fine," Oliver's otherwise soft voice, sounded cold and dismissive. This is as much face as Wang Shu was willing to give the priest. It's already good enough that he didn't ignore him altogether, after his apprentice's farce.
"That's good then…do you know where Valdis is? It'll do no harm if we do a final check-up to ensure your definite recovery, right?" a straightforward approach is also another strategy. Given his position, the man was sure his worry laced request would be met with gratitude and approval.
"There is no need trouble your excellency anymore, I'm sure you have more pressing issues to attend to. We shouldn't keep uncle Mikel waiting any longer, let's head in," Gustave cut in, looking bored. Before the priest could respond, Gustave knocked on the door, then opened it directly, gently pushing Oliver by the small of his back to enter ahead of him.
The high priest frowned and had a bad premonition in his heart. He soon followed in only to be surprised by the get up in the hall; Mikel was seated on his usual elaborate chair, his face gloomy. Next to whom, princess Eleanor and her husband Eryk Hawthorne took the velvet sofa, postures elegant and expressions curious.
Gustave bowed gently, took Oliver's wrist and led him to the sofa opposite the Hawthornes' and sat him down. Wang Shu hadn't reacted to the other's actions, looking slightly dazed by the beautiful hall. Neither felt intimidated or uncomfortable to be in such a place. Eryk observed the two thoughtfully, his refined features and sharp eyes giving him a certain charm. After a while the man retracted his assessing gaze and smile slightly, his thoughts unknown.
On the other hand, his wife had a harder time suppressing her disgust at seeing Oliver's face. He looked so much like that wretch she hated with passion! The princess lowered her eyes to hide the loathing brewing within. Although she is a princess, because she married into the Hawthorne family, she lost her royal status and became a noblewoman with substantial influence due to her fraternal relations to the king. According to Nearynian customs, it is a matter of factly that her downgraded position shouldn't warrant the respectful greeting of the Royals. But as a person holding a great deal of vanity, she wouldn't have it any other way, and who would dare displease her?
Of course, that never applied to Mikel.
Seeing that neither of the boys cared much for her presence, she scowled, then looked at Mikel with a gorgeous smile: "Mikel, darling, your boys aren't nearly as gentlemanly as you are. Was it maybe your negligence to educate them properly? Though I very much doubt that your gracious self would be so careless." She followed her insult with a sweet giggle as if to brush it off as a joke.
Mikel's gloomy face darkened further, "Please do forgive their insolence, Lady Eleanor, they merely don't recognize your noble self. I hope you won't take it to heart."
"Of course she won't sire Mikel, don't mind her jesting mood. She merely wanted to ease the atmosphere," Eryk intervened with a seemingly sincere look.
"Well, I hope you could show some sensitivity. I allowed you to oversee the situation to stand as witnesses, after all."
Eleanor gritted her teeth in annoyance. What was she expecting? for the man to stand on her side, accommodate her and chide the bitch's son and nephew for her sake? She bitterly smiled. He never had her in his eyes in the first place, she knew.
But way before meeting Mia, he had no reason to refuse her brother's request to marry her. At that time, she anticipated their wedding with bated breath. She was sure to make him fall for her later on. As long as he was hers, she'd make it that he sees her as the only one for him.
But her dreams were meant to be mercilessly shattered at the hands of a nobody; a whore that stole her man.
That year's spring ball almost had her lose her sanity. She was shocked, devastated even. But most of all hateful. She was this close to having her beloved, only to have him snatched right before her very eyes. Their clasped hands, enamored smiles and blinding happy expressions stabbed at her eyes repeatedly. Her rage was unimaginable. It was an open secret in the capital that she vied for the man and for years she worked hard to eliminate every threat that might stand in the way of her happiness. Even Mikel was aware of her desires and covetous schemes, but he remained unmoved. With no other choice, she turned to her brother. The king thought such an arrangement was in line with his interests so he started pressuring the Elderige youth to wed his sister. Previously, Mikel made no objections. It was obvious that he was willing to go with the flow since he had no one in his heart.
Then, one trip later, he eloped.
The man she loved for years and spared no effort to make a slight ripple in his heart fell in love with another and married her even.
She couldn't even counterattack, he was so decisive, and how she loathed it. She had a thousand ways to separate them, but that was on the premise that they hadn't tied the knot. But they did…
Eleanor let out a shaky breath and focused on the handsome profile of the dignified master of the Elderidge family. He changed so much. Ever since his wife died, he looked like a withered tree. His previous gentlemanly charm and bright vitality were replaced by cold melancholy, permanently etched on his ever imposing bearing. He made no effort in concealing the heaviness in his heart and it prickled hers in turn.
Young Mikel was as warm and dazzling as the sun. He attracted everyone without even trying. Even she would look bland and washed out when standing beside him. It was only Mia that complimented him perfectly. That ingenious person shone as bright as he did. Together they were a complete puzzle that left no room for her to insert herself in between. She lost.
At the time, blinded by jealousy and rage, she married Eryk without much thought. It was stupid, she now reckons. No one is as perfect as her beloved, and no one will ever be. Wrong decisions can't be undone, her bitterness and regret only intensified in the other's presence.
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